The Florida Everglades are a massive subtropical wetland ecosystem in central and south Florida. The greater Everglades ecosystem covers more than two million acres, although much of the Everglades have been altered, destroyed or lost to development.
Various parts of the Everglades are protected, including Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and others.
During Florida’s summer wet season, floods from Lake Okeechobee and central Florida flow southward in a very slow-moving sheet of fresh water. The shallow water moves through massive sawgrass meadows, cypress swamps, mangroves, flooded prairies, wetlands and a variety of ecosystems. The water eventually flows into Everglades National Park, and then into Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of this massive sheet of water, the Everglades are often called “The River of Grass”, a phrase made popular by famed Everglades conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
The greater Florida Everglades ecosystem was once much larger and more healthy than it is today.
Since settlers began developing south and central Florida in the 1800s, massive areas of the Everglades have been altered, drained, diverted and built upon. Urban development and agriculture are responsible for many of the problems, which have created a cascade of down-stream problems and unintended consequences.